Perceived stress mediates the relationship between emotional loneliness and sleep quality over time in older adults

Br J Health Psychol. 2013 Sep;18(3):546-55. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8287.2012.02101.x. Epub 2012 Sep 18.


Objective: Both loneliness and poor sleep quality are common occurrences in late life and both are detrimental to physical and mental health. While loneliness may be difficult to intervene upon, there may be correlated factors, which, if alleviated, could mitigate the effects of loneliness and sleep quality on health in late life.

Design: A longitudinal, observational study whereby we gathered predictive variables at baseline and dependent variable (sleep) at follow-up.

Method: We investigated the relationship between loneliness at baseline and sleep quality at follow-up in a group of 447 older adults attending the clinic for research participation. Loneliness, stress and sleep quality were all measured using self-report validated psychometric tools.

Results: We found that loneliness, specifically emotional loneliness, predicted sleep quality at follow-up, controlling for demographic factors and for sleep quality at baseline. Upon applying mediation methods to the data, we then found that this relationship was mediated in part by perceived stress.

Conclusion: We conclude that the impact of emotional loneliness on sleep quality in older adults is partly because of the stress experienced as a result of feeling lonely.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*